Attorney Al Watkins, in an interview after a court hearing for one of the two felony cases involving the Republican governor, said a courier delivered each $50,000 payment to his suburban St. Louis office in early January. The source was anonymous and the money came without instructions, but Watkins said he was contacted by an intermediary who assured him the money was from a legal, legitimate source. Watkins said he “assumed and deduced” from that conversation that the money should go toward the ex-husband’s legal fees.
Greitens was indicted in February by a St. Louis grand jury on one felony count of invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a nonconsensual photo of a partially nude woman with whom he had an affair in 2015, before he was elected. On Friday he was charged with a second, unrelated felony for allegedly using a charity donor list for his 2016 political campaign without permission of The Mission Continues, the St. Louis-based veterans charity Greitens founded.
Greitens admitted to the affair with his hairdresser in January. Watkins said his office received the two anonymous payments after the ex-husband had provided audio tapes to KMOV-TV and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in which he secretly recorded his wife talking about the affair. But Watkins said the money arrived before Greitens admitted to the affair on Jan. 10. The ex-husband received none of the money personally, Watkins said, and the man owes additional money for legal fees.
“Whoever it was wanted to make sure everybody had a soft landing,” Watkins said.
During the court session, defense attorney Jim Martin said he heard that a “political operative” made the payments, but Watkins said he doesn’t know who is behind the money.
Greitens is scheduled to go to trial May 14 on the invasion of privacy charge. The first-term governor has been facing increasing pressure to resign — including from fellow Republicans — since a special House investigative committee’s report released April 11 that detailed allegations from the woman with whom he had the affair. She testified that Greitens restrained, slapped, grabbed, shoved and threatened her during a series of sexual encounters that at times left her crying and afraid.
Greitens has said the affair was consensual and has denied any criminal wrongdoing.
The latest charge follows an investigation by Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, also a Republican. Hawley said last week he found evidence that Greitens’ use of The Mission Continues’ donor list amounted to a felony. St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner filed a charge of tampering with computer data against Greitens on Friday, alleging Greitens disclosed the donor list without the charity’s permission.
Greitens’ attorneys have asked Circuit Judge Rex Burlison to disqualify Gardner’s office from prosecuting the latest charge. They didn’t say why in court Monday, and a hearing on that request is scheduled for Tuesday in St. Louis.
A Cole County judge scheduled a hearing for Thursday on a separate request by Greitens’ attorneys to block Hawley’s office from investigating the governor. They contend Hawley has a conflict of interest because he called on Greitens to resign after a House investigatory committee released a report earlier this month containing graphic testimony about the women’s allegations against Greitens. Hawley has called the request frivolous.